College Kids Are Smoking More Weed, Popping Fewer Pills

College kids are finally saying no to pills and alcohol, study finds—but smoking weed like never before

Marijuana in the classrom — (REUTERS)
Sep 07, 2016 at 5:35 PM ET

College kids are smoking weed and saying no to harder drugs, according to the 2016 Monitoring The Future Report, an annual snapshot sponsored by the National Institutes of Health that aims to catalogue what college students are smoking, snorting, injecting, and chugging on campus.

And guess what, potheads? Rejoice! The findings suggest that prevalence of marijuana use in college has reached its highest level in 34 years, with more than six percent of college students now claiming they smoke weed almost every day. Meanwhile, cigarettes and harder drugs are becoming less popular.

The results reinforce the previous year’s findings that marijuana is beginning to eclipse other vices—even alcohol, the long-time drug of choice for college students. Part of the reason why cigarette smoking is in decline is likely the decades-long campaign against tobacco. The result is that cigarette smoking is now shunned by the intellectual elite and almost exclusively enjoyed by those not in college. 9.1 percent of the general population still smokes, while barely one percent of college students partake. “Cigarette smoking has become increasingly concentrated among the less educated,” said coauthor Lloyd Johnston of the University of Michigan, in a press statement.

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Johnston suspects similar anti-drug campaigns have discouraged modern college students from turning to harder drugs, too. “It appears that college students, at least, are hearing and heeding the warnings about the very considerable dangers of using narcotic drugs,” he said.

While a decline in narcotics and cigarette use is certainly good news, the uptick in marijuana use has some public health officials worried. While marijuana is far less dangerous than the alternatives, the sheer number of students who are now smoking regularly promises to present its own challenges on campus. “This increase in use and decrease in perceived risk of harm regarding marijuana use should be taken seriously by college administrators, parents and students themselves,” said coauthor John Schulenberg, also of the University of Michigan, in a press statement.

“Frequent marijuana use can adversely affect academic performance and college completion.”